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The People vs. The State

Reflections on UN Authority, US Power and the Responsibility to Protect

image of The People vs. The State
Responsibility to Protect (R2P) aims to convert international conscience into timely and decisive collective action to rescue vulnerable communities. The choice is not whether international interventions will take place but where, when, how and under whose authority. Given the nature and victims of modern armed conflict, protection of civilians and populations at risk of mass atrocities is a core United Nations imperative. But while the UN has international authority, it lacks military power. Although its military might well have unmatched global reach, the United States acting unilaterally lacks international authority. This publication argues that progress towards good international society requires that force be harnessed to authority as the R2P moves from a universally validated principle to a routinely actionable norm.

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Testing times for the UN

In finally taking the vexed issue of war with Iraq to the United Nations, US President George W. Bush has presented the organization with a double- edged test of credibility. Will it lift its performance and remain relevant to US foreign policy on Washington’s terms, or in doing so will it be seen as bending to US will without demanding American compliance with global norms, from arms control to environmental regimes and international criminal justice?

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